SAT vs. ACT: Which test is right for your goals?

Table of Contents

  1. What is SAT?
  2. What is ACT?
  3. Key differences between SAT and ACT
  4. SAT vs. ACT: Syllabus
  5. SAT and ACT: Exam pattern
  6. SAT vs. ACT score conversion
  7. Top universities accepting SAT or ACT
  8. SAT vs. ACT: Which is better for you?
  9. Frequently Asked Questions

Have you ever thought of how US universities distinguish top applications from other countries? These countries follow different scoring systems, and that makes it tough to select the top applicants for admission. There comes an entrance test, a level-playing factor in international admission to the US.  

SAT and ACT are the top such entrance tests in the US for undergraduate courses. They are popular and carry a reputation for global acceptance in the US. This blog will help you learn more and answer the question of SAT vs. ACT for US admission.

What is SAT?

SAT, or Scholastic Assessment Test, is a standardized test widely used for undergraduate college admissions in the United States. The exam assesses a student’s skills to help colleges consider all applicants equally based on their potential.  

SAT skills are mathematical abilities, data interpretation, and writing, and the scores are considered along with your GPA, extracurricular activities, and letters of recommendation when you apply for admission. The decisions are taken by the college board.  

What is ACT?

ACT, or American College Testing, is another standardized test used for undergraduate college admissions in the United States. Like the SAT, it provides a common data point to assess all applicants. ACT sections include English, mathematics, reading, and science, with an optional writing section.  

Key differences between SAT and ACT

  • Sections: ACT has a separate section for science, while SAT is confined to Reading, Writing and Language, and Math. 
  • Questions: The SAT provides formulas, while the ACT does not. SAT questions are generally more direct but can be lengthier and more intricate. Conversely, ACT questions often hinge on real-world scenarios, emphasizing evidence-based problem-solving that requires multi-step approaches. 
  • Allowing calculator: SAT and ACT allow a calculator to solve mathematical questions. But one part of math questions on the SAT must be solved without a calculator.  

The table below gives you an overall comparison of SAT vs. ACT: 

Parameters SAT ACT 
Mode of Conduction Online or Offline Online or Offline 
Conducted by College Board ACT, Inc. 
Acceptance US, UK, Canada, Australia, India US, UK, Canada, Germany, Italy 
Application Fee 103 USD (INR 8,600) 181. 5 USD (INR 15,000) 206.5 USD with optional essay (INR 17,150) 
Duration 3 hours 15 minutes 3 hours 
Sections Reading and Writing, Math Reading, English, Math, Science, Essay (optional) 
Score Range 400 – 1,600 1 – 36 
Score Validity 5 years 5 years 
Total Attempts  No limit 12 times 
Exam Frequency per year 7 times a year 2 times in a year 
Test Centers in India 115 28 

SAT vs. ACT: Syllabus

The ACT and SAT assessments vary in terms of question quantity, sections, and question types. The table below compares the differences for your easy understanding:  

SAT Syllabus ACT Syllabus

SAT consists of 154 questions divided into 3 sections: Reading, Writing and Language, and Math.

  • Reading section – 52 questions, 5 passages.
  • Writing and Language section – 44 questions testing language skills.
  • Math section – 58 questions from Arithmetic, Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry and Data Analysis.

The ACT comprises 215 questions distributed across 4 sections: Reading, English, Math, and Science, and an optional essay.

  • Reading section – 40 questions, 4 passages.
  • English section – 75 questions from diverse language sections.
  • Math section – 60 questions from Arithmetic, Algebra I & II, Geometry, Trigonometry, and Probability & Statistics.  Science section – 40 questions from 1 section. 

SAT and ACT: Exam pattern

 SAT and ACT have a similar exam pattern with slight variations. The total testing time for the ACT is 3 hours without the optional writing section and 3 hours and 35 minutes with the optional writing section. The total testing time for the SAT is 3 hours 15 minutes.  

See the table below to compare the SAT vs. ACT exam pattern and time allocation for each section: 

Section Time Allotted on SAT Time Allotted on ACT 
Reading 65 minutes 35 minutes 
Writing and Language/ English 35 minutes 45 minutes 
Math  With calculator – 25 minutes
Without calculator – 35 minutes 
60 minutes 
Science NA 35 minutes 

SAT vs. ACT score conversion

SAT and ACT use different scales for scoring. SAT scores range from 400 – 1600 and ACT scores range from 1 – 36. The table below compares SAT scores and equivalent ACT scores:  

SAT Scores ACT Scores 
640-620 10 
680-650 11 
720-690 12 
770-730 13 
820-780 14 
870-830 15 
910-880 16 
950-920 17 
980-960 18 
1020-990 19 
1050-1030 20 
1090-1060 21 
1120-1100 22 
1150-1130 23 
1190-1160 24 
1220-1200 25 
1250-1230 26 
1290-1260 27 
1320-1300 28 
1350-1330 29 
1380-1360 30 
1410-1390 31 
1440-1420 32 
1480-1450 33 
1520-1490 34 
1560-1530 35 
1600-1570 36 

Top universities accepting SAT or ACT

University  World Rankings 2024 ACT/SAT Acceptance 
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 01 SAT & ACT accepted 
Harvard University 04 SAT & ACT accepted 
Stanford University 05 SAT & ACT accepted 
University of California, Berkeley (UCB) 10 SAT & ACT accepted 
University of Chicago 11 SAT & ACT accepted 
University of Pennsylvania 12 SAT & ACT accepted 
Cornell University 13 SAT & ACT accepted 
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) 15 SAT & ACT accepted 
Yale University 16 SAT & ACT accepted 
Princeton University 17 SAT & ACT accepted 

SAT vs. ACT: Which is better for you?

Finally, choosing the SAT vs. ACT can be confusing as both tests follow similar structure, pattern, and syllabus. You may choose an option based on your preferences, skills, purpose, and other factors. Here are some recommendations to help you: 

  • Go through the previous years’ questions on SAT and ACT. It will help you decide which is easy for your skills. 
  • Refer to your university college abroad and see which test is accepted, SAT or ACT. 
  • Check for nearby SAT and ACT test centers. As the SAT has more test centers in India than the ACT, it can be your convenient option.  

Thus, recognizing the disparities can aid in determining which examination aligns better with your strengths and preferences. Clearing the entrance test is your first step toward a successful admission journey abroad. Take your steps with expert guidance – connect with Nomad Credit now for seamless guidance at zero cost.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which is easier, SAT or ACT?  

SAT or ACT can be easier for you, depending on your skills. Since the variations in these tests affect each person differently, you can decide the easier option only after practicing both tests.  

Is SAT exam tough for Indian students?  

Indian students may find SAT tough because of unfamiliar question pattern, rules, and language difficulties. Once familiar with the test, Indian students can ace it after systematic preparation.  

What is the optional writing section in SAT? Should I take it? 

SAT essay is a task to test the student’s ability to write under strict time constraints. It is totally optional for the student who takes the test.  

Can I take the SAT and ACT? 

Yes. You can take the SAT and ACT if you wish to do so. Many students take both tests and apply to colleges with better scores on the SAT and ACT tests.  

Which has more acceptance, SAT or ACT? 

SAT and ACT have acceptance in US universities in general. Either universities demand the SAT or ACT or accept any of these.  

What is a good score on the SAT? 

A good score on the SAT is determined by the prescribed minimum score for your admission to a particular college or university. Generally, 1200+ is considered a good SAT score.  

What is a good score on ACT? 

It is up to the college or university to decide the good ACT score for admission. Typically, 18 – 20 is the average minimum ACT score required for admission.  

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